This week's episode of Downton Abbey focuses on a timeless question: Should women say what they think?
The year is 1920, and the aspiring assistant chef Daisy wants to move up in the kitchen, and in her life. She is in awe of Miss Reid, the American maid who spent last week's season opener flirting shamelessly with Alfred and joyfully exclaiming her romantic desire. While preparing the extravagant edibles for Lady Edith's upcoming wedding, Daisy consults with Alfred:
"I couldn't get over how outspoken she was. But you liked that didn't you? Maybe I should be more outspoken and say what I really think."
As Daisy seeks to sort out her view on this revolutionary idea of women speaking their mind, we watch poor Lady Edith dote on her fiancee, Sir Anthony Strallan, with excessive adoration exclaiming:
"I don't love you in spite of your need to be looked after, I love you because of it; I want you to be my life's work!"
Her bottomless expression of affection gets her nowhere, and poor Edith is jilted at the alter.
Meanwhile, Lady Mary boldly tells her adoring Matthew:
"If you try to find one more excuse not to accept the money, I shall have to beat you about the head!"
Mary speaks her mind -- with humor and love -- and gets exactly what she wants.
The most heartwarming romance of the episode takes place between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes who absolutely refuse to say anything about what they think or how they feel. Rejecting any form of direct communication, these lovebirds independently confide in the well intended cook, Mrs. Patmore, who seems stressed to be trapped with the knowledge of their unspoken, unacknowledged affections. We watch the adorable Mr. Carson singing joyfully of his beloved in a corner, while Mrs. Hughes watches longingly (in secret) and we can only hope that someone will speak up soon!
As the episode closes, Daisy cannot seem to find a clear answer to her question and turns her colleague, Anna, for advice:
"Do you think its right that women should say what they think and speak out about romance and everything?"
Anna, shockingly, gives a reply that could have been lifted from the lines of a modern day advice column, or from the 1995 bestselling self-help classic, The Rules!
"Well, things are changing for us and the vote won't be long now, so I suppose they must get used to us speaking our minds. But with most of the men I've ever met, if you started to court them they'd be so terrified they'd run a mile!"
Ironically, the one time Daisy speaks up, she barges into a conversation, uninvited, and tells Lady Mary of a letter she mailed for Lavinia just before her death. Daisy's honesty singlehandedly saves Downton Abbey and her job, though Daisy learns nothing of the tremendous ramifications of her outspoken words.
Obviously, women can and must say what they think and how they feel. The trick is to say things kindly, use humor when appropriate, and respect yourself in the process!